As part of the Coronation celebrations over the weekend, a star-studded concert is taking place in the grounds of Windsor Castle. My planned attendance at the concert led me to considering a couple of contractual conundrums.
I received a text message at the end of April, from a friend, asking if I was doing anything over the Coronation Weekend, (no) swiftly followed by a second text, “would you like to go to the Coronation Concert with me?”.
Who wouldn’t turn down the offer of an afternoon of free music in the grounds of Windsor Castle with a friend?
And then within two minutes a third text, “hold on, stand down, I think there is a problem…”
It turns out thousands of people wouldn’t turn down the offer of free music in the grounds of Windsor Castle either, which is unfortunate for Ticketmaster who, it appears, sent some rather confusing emails (25 April 2023) in relation to said concert, and have not received very positive press as a consequence.
The “The Coronation Concert – Congratulations” email was not all it seemed and in this article we look into what went wrong, and whether there is any recompense for disappointed applicants.
The Coronation Concert is being screened on BBC 1 with 10,000 free tickets (5,000 pairs) offered to the general public through a ballot which was being operated by Ticketmaster.
The way a ticket ballot such as this operates is that those individuals who are interested in attending the event applied to the ballot to be in with an opportunity of being allocated a ticket.
You could not buy a ticket to the event.
In this particular instance, applications had to be made by 23:59 on 28 February 2023 and tickets were allocated randomly and fairly to reflect a spread of attendees across the UK to ensure that all parts of the UK were represented.
The Ballot rules, as posted on TicketMaster’s website, were very clear that tickets were not being allocated on a first-come first-served basis.
The Application Process
To be in with a chance of getting a pair of tickets to the Coronation Concert, potential attendees had to enter a ballot, and they received a confirmation email which stated:
“Thank you for applying to enter the ballot for a pair of Coronation Concert tickets. Your application has been received.
We will email successful applicants by late April 2023. Please remember to check your spam or junk mail folders.
Please note that unsuccessful applicants will not be notified.”
The confirmation email was very clear in stating that unsuccessful applicants would not be notified, and so all applicants had a reasonable expectation, set by Ticketmaster, that they would only hear if they had actually been allocated tickets.
The Allocation Process
Around midday on 25 April 2023 Ticketmaster sent their “The Coronation Concert – Congratulations” email, the wording f which stated the following:
“Congratulations, you have been successful in the ballot for a pair of standing tickets to The Coronation Concert, At Windsor Castle on Sunday 7 May 2023.
Tickets in this supplementary round are being offered to a randomly selected group of ballot winners on a first come first served basis, so you will need to act quickly in claiming your tickets to ensure you secure them.”
There were further instructions within the email telling you how to claim your tickets, by clicking the “Claim tickets” button and beneath this button the email stated:
“You will have until 12:00 on 27th April to claim your tickets. If you do not claim your tickets by this date then they will be re-allocated.”
The wording within the email suggests that the person receiving the email has secured tickets which they just have to claim to attend the Concert, and that they have a limited time period in which to do this before the tickets are allocated on.
What actually happened was that when individuals went to claim the tickets they thought they had already been allocated, they were instead informed that all tickets had sold out.
As you may be aware at the time there was a lot of noise on social media regarding the fiasco and a lot of very upset people who felt they had been led to believe they had successfully been allocated tickets contacting Ticketmaster to seek clarification of the situation.
Later during the afternoon of 25 April 2023, a further email was sent by Ticketmaster updating on the situation:
“You recently received an email regarding your ballot application for The Coronation Concert, at Windsor Castle on Sunday 7 May 2023.
You were contacted as a part of a supplementary first come first served round. This event was very popular and all tickets have now been snapped up.”
As you may have seen or heard in the press and on radio, a lot of people who thought they had tickets were very upset to find out that they didn’t. Others were claiming they had lost out financially as a result of the process and were looking to see if they could make a claim to recover their losses which stemmed from flights / train tickets / hotel costs.
To consider whether any claim can be made, it is necessary to look at whether there was a contract in place between TicketMaster and those who entered the ballot.
If a contractual relationship can be established, was that contract breached. And, if there was a breach of contract, did that breach cause a loss which the law would allow the applicant to recover.
Is there a contract?
For a contract to exist, there needs to be an offer capable of acceptance, acceptance of the offer, consideration and the intention to form a legal relationship.
In this particular instance the opportunity from TicketMaster to apply for ballot tickets was not an “offer” as required to form a contract, in giving the opportunity to apply for tickets there was no intention to form legal relations at that point.
The opportunity from TicketMaster is what is known as an “invitation to treat” as there was no intention from TicketMaster to be bound in a legal contract with applicants when they made their application. It was an invitation to provide an expression of interest, as it were, in attending the concert.
Any argument that there was a binding contract may also be challenged on the basis the tickets were given away free of charge, and that there was, therefore, no consideration (note, though, that consideration doesn’t always have to be monetary).
Unfortunately for those who had been led to believe they had secured tickets there is limited remedy available to them.
Further, applicants suffered no direct loss as a result of individuals not being able to secure tickets. It will be noted that many aggrieved applicants have made reference to hotel accommodation or travel costs, however these class as indirect loss and are not recoverable because the terms and conditions in relation to the concert, which are published on bbc.co.uk, clearly state at clause 1:
“Under no circumstances will the Event Organisers be liable for unforeseen or indirect loss of any form.”
Ultimately at present the Coronation Concert ticketing arrangements will not be remembered in a particularly glowing light, with disappointed individuals only able to express their frustration at the organisers through the medium of social media and through forums and various media outlets.
Perhaps an apology from the ticketing company might be a sensible way to start; often an apology and an acknowledgement that one party is in the wrong is a simple way to stop disputes before they take hold.
On the plus side, at least there are no concerns regarding inclement weather if your only option is to watch the concert on the television, from your sofa in the comfort of your own home!
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